Brainerd: GM Racing final report

Team Chevy Scores a Pair of Professional Victories at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals - Kurt Johnson wins Pro Stock, Tony Pedregon Takes Funny Car BRAINERD, Minn., Aug. 10, 2008 - A pair of Team Chevy victories in the professional categories at the...

Team Chevy Scores a Pair of Professional Victories at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals - Kurt Johnson wins Pro Stock, Tony Pedregon Takes Funny Car

BRAINERD, Minn., Aug. 10, 2008 - A pair of Team Chevy victories in the professional categories at the 27th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals culminated an exciting weekend of drag racing at Brainerd International Raceway. Kurt Johnson collected his third Pro Stock victory of the season by defeating Dave Connolly in an all-Chevy Cobalt final round, and Tony Pedregon captured his fourth Funny Car win of the year in the Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS by defeating Jack Beckman in the finals.

Kurt Johnson's ACDelco Chevy Cobalt thoroughly dominated the Pro Stock category on Sunday by posting the quickest elapsed time in all four rounds of eliminations. The 45-year-old Minnesota native threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the Pro Stock field during qualifying on Saturday when he recorded the quickest elapsed time of the day at 6.681 seconds. Johnson entered race day in the No. 2 position and defeated Jim Yates in round one of eliminations with a track-record elapsed time of 6.648 seconds at 207.62 mph, Mike Edwards in round two with a 6.664 e.t. at 206.83 mph, and Jeg Coughlin Jr. in round three with a 6.657 second run at 206.83 mph. In the all-Chevy Cobalt match against Dave Connolly, Johnson blistered the starting line with a .014 reaction time and crossed the stripe first with a winning a 6.671 second elapsed time at 207.05 mph. Connolly's Charter Communications/Lifelock was close behind with a 6.696 e.t at 206.29 mph. The margin of victory for the ACDelco Chevrolet was .027 of a second.

"Just a super, great day today," exclaimed Johnson. "We were a little behind at first and we kept tuning on it and kept paying attention to what we needed to be doing and the car kept getting faster and faster. We've had some fifty and sixty lights this year where we didn't put the win light on and I knew that anybody that's going to be champion has got to drive well.

"That Chevrolet was flawless today. We had to make some small changes to it, but it does add pressure. Especially since you know the car is going to be fast. If you miss the tree you can be quicker at the finish line and still lose. It definitely adds pressure and you have to perform. It costs a lot of money to run these cars and the driver has to perform. To keep my job, I have to do what I have to and it's all on the tree. That's free horsepower and I've never seen free horsepower in the dyno room."

It was Johnson's 39th career victory, his 29th behind the wheel of a Chevrolet (the most all time among Chevy Pro Stock competitors), and the fourth time he has visited the winner's circle at Brainerd International Raceway (1997, '00, '05, '08). Johnson's victory today moved him to second place in the POWERade standings and gave Chevrolet its 154th all-time win in the NHRA factory hot rod category - Chevy's seventh this season.

"He's a great competitor," said Johnson of final-round opponent Dave Connolly. "Dave (Connolly), Jeggie, Greg (Anderson), Jason (Line), they have good days and they're the best. We race against them every weekend and to go out there and have a great day like I did today, to leave on the four competitors I left on, makes me feel awesome.

"The best part of the whole weekend is when you close the doors and you pull in the water. There's nobody talking to you. You do your job, you go out there, you let the clutch out, and you're focused. That's all there is to it. You're focused on doing a good job and the (hometown) fans definitely helped."

With his runner-up performance this weekend at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Team Chevy's Dave Connolly virtually guaranteed himself a spot in the NHRA POWERade Countdown to 1 championship playoff. Connolly qualified his Charter Communications Cobalt in the No. 8 spot, and defeated Richie Stevens in round one, Greg Anderson in round two, and Allen Johnson in round three before losing to Johnson in the finals.

"We just didn't have enough for him," Connolly said. "That is what's fun about this class. It's not just the driver, not just the crew, not just the engine guys, you have to have everything. We had a good day. We made it to the final. We may not have secured ourselves of a top 10 spot yet, but this really gave us a little cushion anyway after being on the edge of our seats all the time. It was a winning week for sure."

It was Connolly's fifth final-round appearance in just his 11th race this season, and the third time in his career that he has advanced to the championship heat at Brainerd International Raceway (Connolly won this race in 2004 and '06). The 25-year-old Charlotte, N.C. resident now advances to eighth place in the Pro Stock standings with just two races remaining before the top 10 positions for the Countdown to 1 are locked in following the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.

"It was a tight drag race - two good lights and two good runs - we were just on the losing end of it," noted Connolly. "I've felt good behind the wheel in the last couple of weeks and I'm getting my confidence built up a little bit. Now we'll pack it up and go to Reading and see what happens."

Team Chevy's Tony Pedregon captured his fourth national-event victory of the season and advanced to second place in the POWERade point standings with a final-round victory over Jack Beckman. It was Pedregon's 40th career victory, his first at BIR, and his first final-round appearance at this venue since a runner-up back in 1996. Pedregon becomes just the second Funny Car driver in the history of the sport to reach 40 national-event victories.

"This is probably one of the toughest eras to be racing in," Pedregon said. "It's bad timing on my part, but we're surviving and we're very fortunate to be winning races. I had never won a race here in Brainerd. I was runner-up when I drove for Force so this is a big achievement for me to be able to pull the win off today. There's never a bad time to win, but we realize we need to get ourselves back in that second spot and I think we've done that. All the points will be critical from this point on."

Pedregon entered Sunday's eliminator with the Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS qualified in the No. 6 spot. He defeated Jim Head in round one with a 4.219 e.t. at 278.66 mph, Melanie Troxel in the quarterfinals with a 4.190 second run at 292.01 mph, and John Force in a close semifinal matchup with a 4.369 e.t. at 257.63 mph (to Force's 4.373 e.t.). The final round against Beckman was determined immediately when the driver of the Dodge Charger red lighted. Pedregon's Q Horsepower Chevy Impala SS went on to record a winning final-round time of 4.238 seconds at 288.89 mph.

"Every round was a big challenge," Pedregon said. "Probably the toughest race, without question, was racing Force. You can't cut him any slack. People say he's old and he's lost it. I'm not buying it - he told me that 10 years ago. He's a great competitor and it was a tough race just like I thought. But so was Beckman. A little more time in the seat and he's (Beckman) going to be better.

"Sometimes you force them into making mistakes when your car's running good and our car performed well today. I'm just happy to win a race here. We had great conditions, and we put a smile on these people's faces. A lot of good, close racing, just so tough mentally on the drivers, but we're in the business of entertainment. For us, the racers, it's all about nuts and bolts, and oil and spark plugs and filters. But it's really a form of entertainment, and I think we did a good job of being able to pull this off."

Pedregon's win today ties him with Tim Wilkerson for the most in the category this season. Chevy Funny Car drivers have also combined for a class leading 10 victories this year, the most ever by Chevy Funny Cars in a single season.

"I have to have a certain amount of confidence and I have to remind myself of that," Pedregon said. "You take all this stuff away and I think I'm pretty humble because of where I come from, and how I was brought up. I look across the pit and see Don Schumacher's team and John Force's, and I was in the stands watching these guys - I was kid taking pictures of Force when I was 12 years old. That part of me will never change. But there's a competitive nature that was instilled in me when I was a child. I know what it's like to be on the top, and I know what it's like to be on the bottom and I don't want to go back there."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Greg Anderson , Tim Wilkerson , Jack Beckman , Melanie Troxel , Allen Johnson , Don Schumacher , Dave Connolly , Mike Edwards